Every year, Coverings showcases the latest advances in ceramic technology and this year was no exception. From “bionic” tiles that respond to their environment to self-cleaning and anti-microbial tiles, Coverings 2009 offered a glimpse into the future at McCormick Place in Chicago from April 21-24.

For example, the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) announced at its press event that it has recently completed testing on a new titanium-based, micro-coating technology developed by StonePeak Ceramics, which showed a 70% reduction in harmful NOx emissions, as well as a 67-94% reduction in dangerous E Coli bacteria.

One of the hottest trends this year was ceramic wood planks, rectified tiles in modular formats that allow for installation in patterns typical of real wood floors. Examples of this trend included: StonePeak’s Cottage Country Farm, which simulates the texture of distressed wood; Inalco’s Ginza series, which offers a modernist look that combines a wood texture with wavy patterns; Portobello’s Ecodecor series, featuring a sophisticated look inspired by French wood; and the new Ecoparquet line designed to resemble parquet floors, and the Cementwood line combining the looks of wood and cement.

Other products following the wood-look trend included Tau Ceramica’s Deco series designed to mimic exotic Zebrano wood; Marca Corona’s Easy Wood series, which features indoor and outdoor finishes; Atlas Concorde’s Doga line, a through-body porcelain suitable for heavy duty, commercial use; Marazzi’s Riflessi Di Legno, offering the looks of five different hardwood species; Edilcuoghi’s Habitat series, which offered two finishes, a natural finish and a “slate” finish for outdoor applications; Rex’s Abisko, an ultra-thin wood look porcelain tile; Granitifiandre’s Stone Fores, which features a recreation of petrified wood; and Ragno’s Arte series of petrified wood-look tile.

Another key trend this year was the proliferation of highly realistic stone designs. Thanks to new inkjet printing technology, natural textures such as stone can be duplicated with uncanny accuracy, and can even follow the contours of deeply pressed textures, manufacturers say. New stone textures this year included: Marazzi’s Walnut Canyon series of limestone looks; and Florida Tile’s Legend series and Taconic Slate, which recreates the unique texture of slate from the mountains of New Hampshire.

Tau Ceramica also introduced several new through-body porcelain stone recreations, including its Marble, Crema Marfil and Livorno series; Grespania added several realistic stone looks created using the Kerajet digital printing technology, including its Zumaia and California series, which are inspired by natural slate. Iris’ new Shine series is produced using a new technology where natural materials are combined under extreme pressure to yield engineered porcelain stoneware slabs with through-body veining like natural stone, but with technical characteristics that allow it to be used in high-traffic areas.

While the current economic crisis did affect overall attendance this year, most exhibitors felt those who did attend were serious customers who came to buy.

“There was definitely a change with the quality of people attending the show,” said Massimo Ballucchi, Vitromex USA marketing and product development director. “We are now dealing with the purchase person and possibly one or two more key people per company rather than having a larger group visiting; no complaints there.”